1 Thessalonians 2:17-3:13
So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles, and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord. – 1 Thessalonians 3:7-8 NLT
You can sense the love that Paul had for the Thessalonian believers. He longed to be with them. He had tried on numerous occasions to visit them, but had been prevented. We don’t know what kinds of circumstances kept Paul from making the trip, but he believed Satan had played a role. He understood the reality and significance of spiritual warfare. He knew that the enemy was always trying to destroy the fruit of Paul’s efforts and the work of the Spirit taking place around the world. The various letters of Paul reflect that kinds of spiritual conflicts that had risen up in the churches that had sprung up since Pentecost. Legalism, syncretism, factions, false teachers, errant doctrine, and a host of other issues had made their way into these local fellowships, causing all kinds of problems. As one of the few qualified leaders available to minister to these fledgling fellowships, Paul had a strong sense of responsibility for their well-being. He knew they were under attack, just as he and Silas were. He knew their faith was being tested and wanted to encourage them to remain strong and stand firm. Unable to make the trip to see them in person, Paul and Silas sent Timothy to visit the Thessalonians in order to assess their condition. His report when he returned was positive and encouraging. Paul and Silas had sent Timothy to encourage and strengthen the young believers in Thessalonica, but what he found ended up being a source of encouragement to Paul and Silas. In spite of their difficult circumstances and the troubles surrounding them, the Thessalonians were strong in their faith. The Spirit was at work in their lives.
When he had been with them, Paul had warned them of the difficulties to come. He had not left them wide-eyed and innocent, unaware of the difficulties that accompany a life committed to Christ. “Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come – and they did, as you well know” (1 Thessalonians 3:4 NLT). Rather than leave these young converts with an impression that the Good News meant a life devoid of bad circumstances, Paul and Silas had told them the truth. “We are destined for such troubles” (1 Thessalonians 3:3 NLT). They come with the territory. When we come to faith in Christ, we become enemies of this world. We become targets for Satan to destroy. Our very existence stands opposed to him and his plans for this world. We should not be surprised by trials or struggles. We should not be shocked by difficulties. We are immersed in a spiritual battle, surrounded by the enemy, and under constant attack. But we have the Holy Spirit to strengthen and empower us. We have the body of Christ. We have the unfailing promises of God to trust in and the unquestionable assurance of our salvation to stand on. We can and will endure to the end. And our faith in the midst of difficulty should be a source of encouragement to us. When we see one another standing firm in the face of difficulty, we should rejoice. When we see another believer struggling with trials, we should come alongside them, strengthening and encouraging them. Then when we see them come out the other side stronger and firmer in their faith, we will be strengthened as well. Paul was encouraged by the faith of the Thessalonians. He was strengthened by the news of their steadfast commitment to the cause of Christ. And he prayed that their love and faith would continue to increase. “And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows” (1 Thessalonians 3:11 NLT).
Father, may my life be an example to all those who know me. May they be strengthened and encouraged by the way I handle and face the inevitable adversity of life. Trials are inevitable. They are part of life on this planet. But give me the faith to remain strong. Give me love for others so that I will stand by them as they struggle and rejoice with them when they come out the other side stronger in their faith. Keep us going and growing, Lord. Amen.
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men